The New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa

New Zealand’s national place naming authority

Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa

The memorial markers of the landscape

The late Sir James Henare gave this name to the New Zealand Geographic Board. It metaphorically describes the memorial markers of the landscape. It was approved by the Minister of Lands and endorsed by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission).

Ngā Tohu Pūmahara

The survey pegs of the past

‘The names of our landscape contain a huge amount of information about the land and the relationship of one place to another. We find our way around our maps by marking them with place names, but the map does not tell us anything about the names themselves, what they mean or why places were given the names they carry. Those names, though, carry a cargo of meaning and memory, they signpost the fact that place has a human dimension.’(1)

Our aims

Geographic names are widely used by communities, businesses, travellers, local authorities and central government. They are
particularly important for emergency services and maritime safety. In its official geographic naming role, the Board aims to
ensure that:

  • geographic features and places within New Zealand’s jurisdiction are identifiable by name so that people can effectively communicate information about location; and
  • geographic names preserve New Zealand’s heritage and culture.

Our work

  • The Board assigns new names for geographic features and places, alters or discontinues existing names, approves or adopts recorded names already in common use, validates past name decisions and defines the position or extent of geographic features or places.
  • Place names identify where people are as they go about their everyday business. They are a component of New Zealand’s infrastructure, helping people navigate from one place to another, and play a key role in the way we identify types of locationand geographical features. This function takes on additional significance when place names are used for emergency management.
  • Anyone can propose a name for a geographic feature or place. The Board uses naming guidelines, standards and international best practice for standardised, consistent and accurate naming, to help it make robust and enduring decisions. In order to make informed decisions the Board also encourages consultation with relevant agencies, local communities, stakeholders and iwi.
  • Place names are important landmarks of the history, culture and identity of our nation and communities within it, and they honour the people who live in New Zealand, as well as significant events that have taken place.
  • The Board researches all name proposals and collects and encourages the use of original Māori names
  • The Board makes information about official and recorded names accessible through the online searchable New Zealand Gazetteer of Official Geographic Names. Data from this Gazetteer can be freely downloaded and reused.

1 Te Aue Davis, Tipene O’Regan, John Wilson. (1990). Ngā Tohu Pūmahara, The Survey Pegs of the Past, Understanding Māori Place Names. Christchurch: Deadline.